HLC Newsletter

Panelists Provide Deep Dive into Social Determinants of Health at Congressional Briefing

Alonzo South, Senior Director of Community Engagement, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Alonzo South, Senior Director of Community Engagement, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

The Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill that focused on how healthcare organizations are working to address the social and economic factors that often serve as predictors of health and longevity.  Experts spoke about the different methods used to approach the diverse and holistic needs of patients.

Alonzo South, senior director of community engagement for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, talked about why addressing social determinants is critical to child health.  He mentioned that some avenues to doing so include improving housing, disrupting hunger, tackling poverty, and diminishing trauma.  He offered policy solutions to aid social determinants efforts such as Medicaid spending flexibility, simplified social services enrollment, benefit portability, and continuous child eligibility for a full year regardless of family income fluctuations.

Jennifer Tinajero, executive director of the Clinically Integrated Network at MemorialCare Health System, highlighted the ramifications of food insecurity and untreated behavioral health diagnoses.  She explained MemorialCare’s utilization of a new online platform and call center for connecting patients and caregivers with vetted local and national resources in areas like transportation, meal delivery, and financial assistance.

Dr. Romilla Batra, chief medical officer of SCAN Health Plan, explained how SCAN built its own risk stratification model and that seniors are categorized as being self-sufficient with peers and technology available, needing to use care navigators, or being dependent on community health workers and social workers.  Properly categorizing patients allows for the proper resources to be provided so that social determinants do not drive up acute utilization.  Dr. Batra acknowledged that the workforce needs additional people with a different skillset than what already exists in order to meet the needs of the aging population.

Dr. Alan Abrams, who sits on the board of directors at Senior Helpers, described the spectrum of home-based care for frail, elderly people which allows them to avoid the hazards of hospitalization and remain within their communities.  He compared community-level (macro) factors such as food insecurity and access to care to patient-level (micro) factors such as home safety and social isolation.  Dr. Abrams stated that sixty percent of the risk of premature death is tied to social determinants of health and that focusing on the micro factors allows for a greater opportunity to mitigate risk for individuals.

In addition to this briefing, HLC has worked with its members to produce a white paper aimed at providing solutions for reducing disparities in health which is available here.